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The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Letters and Sounds

Is your child just learning letters and letter sounds? Have you been working on letters and sounds for some time but it just isn’t “clicking”? Maybe you’ve got all the worksheets and workbooks you need, but are looking for ways to practice and reinforce these skills throughout the day.


There are a number of ways to practice letter names and sounds that don’t require worksheets, workbooks or more seat-time. In fact, playing, moving, and laughing while learning is an ideal way to learn something new and commit it to memory.


Need help right now on how to help your child master letters and letter sounds and want a daily guide on how to teach your child? We get it. Time is short and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Access our Thoughtful Play ELA Kindergarten Curriculum - Unit 1 for open-and-go lesson plans that walk you through how to teach letters and letter sounds, as well as the order in which to teach them using our play-based approach to teaching reading and writing through games and physical activities.


Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you begin the process of teaching your child to identify letters and their sounds.


Teach the Letter Names and Sounds at the Same Time

It is important to be able to identify each letter, but knowing the sound that each letter makes is equally important. Rather than teach the name of each letter first and then go back to teach the sound, we recommend teaching the sound and the letter together.


Teach High-Frequency Letters First

At Thoughtful Play, we introduce the most common letters and sounds first. These are letters that your child will encounter most frequently in words. The benefit of teaching high-frequency letters first is that your child can quickly begin making and blending words with the letters they know. The first five letters we introduce are A, B, T, C, S.


Begin with Uppercase Letters

We begin introducing uppercase letters first and gradually introduce lowercase letters. There are only about 10 letters where the formation of lowercase letters differs largely from uppercase letters. However, if you’ve already started with lowercase letters, or are introducing both upper and lowercase letters at the same time that is okay. There is no need to change your approach. There are many different philosophies on how to do this.


Short and Frequent Letter Work is Best

Aim to spend only 3-5 minutes at a time actively teaching each letter, but aim to do this 2-3 times during the day. Active teaching looks like pointing to the letter while saying its name and sound. Ideally you will trace the letter as well. Our ELA Unit 1 Curriculum walks you through this process and how to do this using a fun, high-engagement game that will have your child eager for more practice.


Spend A Few Days On Each Letter

We recommend spending 2-3 days on each letter. Your child may pick up some letters more quickly than others. This is normal. There may also be some letters that your child already knows. Make a point to spend at least one dedicated day on each letter, even if it is a review. If there are letters that your child is struggling with, slow down and take your time. Spend more days on this letter and revisit it more frequently during the day. Invite the letter to join you throughout the day as a character in your play or while you eat lunch. Take your time and don’t feel pressure to move too quickly.


Review Letters Every Day

It is important to revisit letters that have already been learned every day. This can be a quick and easy touch, say, sound, trace review. You can also make a point of incorporating the letters you’ve already learned into your letter/sound games. Daily repetition of learned letters is an important element of mastery.


Separate Similar Letters

It is common for children to get confused with letters that look similarly (b, d, p) or that sound similar (e, i). To avoid confusion, space these letters far apart from each other in your letter sequencing so that your child is not learning them back-to-back.


Familiarize Yourself with the Letter Sounds First

Take time to familiarize yourself with the proper pronunciation of each letter sound before teaching your child. As expert readers, we often glance over the sounds that are actually produced when we speak or read words. Take a few minutes to review the correct letter sound in advance to support your child when they begin blending words. You can find a short video clip on the pronunciation of each letter sound on our Thoughtful Play YouTube channel.

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Regularly Check for Mastery

Play word games regularly to check your child’s mastery and automaticity recognizing letters and sounds. There are several games you can play to do this. When checking for mastery, provide a letter name and ask for the sound, or provide the sound and ask your child to name the letter.


Have Fun

Remember that children are always watching and taking cues from the caring adults in their life. Try to remove pressure, stress, or anxiety around learning letters and sounds. Make it playful, silly, and engaging - and your child will look forward to learning the letters and sounds each day.


Ready to get started but still unsure where to start? Visit us at Thoughtful Play for daily lesson plans, in an open-and-go format, to build a confident, enthusiastic reader and writer.


Play on,


Katie


Katie Eichman, M.Ed.

Co-Founder, Thoughtful Play


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